P for Peruvian Cartophilic Society


Some of our readers might be amazed by what I am going to tell you but in the 1950s there was a Cartophilic Society in Peru. 

Its first mention comes in "The Cartophilic World" [vol.11, no. 120, November - December 1955] where it speaks of "our Peruvian member, Senor Victor Mejia-Franco", of San Isidro, Lima.

He had started the Peruvian Cartophilic Society with his friend and fellow resident of Lima, Senor I. Louis Peri, who served as President.

Senor Mejia-Franco was keen to connect with us, and sent many sample cards for research purposes, along with details of Peruvian makers and issues for our World Tobacco Issues Index. His own research had even led to his producing the 'Catalogo Cartofilica Sudamericano', a two part illustrated catalogue in Spanish but with a special guide in English so that it could be used by overseas collectors. This was to cover all South American cards that were available in Peru. It was first expected that it would be available about March 1956, but this was later delayed to the end of 1956, and that it would cost about 45/-.

There was also to be a General Index and Price Booklet which included about three hundred different printings of Peruvian tobacco issues by thirty-one different firms, which he offered to any of our members for the cost of postage alone. He managed this by sending Mr. Wharton-Tigar twenty four copies as a parcel, to distribute to the first members who replied, which meant that postage cost to members was just 4d each. Alternatively they could write to Senor Mejia-Franco direct. 

At that time there were about 100 collectors in Peru, and much cartophilic activity, in fact prices of old cards in Peru were higher than in the rest of the world, about ten American dollars a card - or the equivalent of about 70/- each in our money.

In "The Cartophilic World" [vol.11, no.122, March - April 1956] it was announced that the Society had held an exhibition of cards in Lima. We are later told in issue 123 [May-June 1956], as part of a two page spread about the Society, that this has been planned for 25th and 26th of February, 1956, but local civil unrest had meant only the second day took place. Despite, or maybe because of this, ninety members attended the meeting in the morning, during which a Peruvian Cartophilic Museum is mentioned, and about four hundred visitors attended in total.

In 1957 they planned to host an Exposition Cartofilica Internacional to celebrate their fifth birthday; which means that their Society was started in 1952, almost three years before Senor Mejia-Franco joined us.

In a round up article at the end of the year [vol.11, no.126, November-December 1956] quoting from a news-sheet of 31st August 1956, they sadly reported that the Exposition Cartofilica Internacional had been postponed, and that their permanent meeting place was to reduce its opening hours to Saturday and Sunday evenings from 6 until 9pm. However on a more positive note they mention card auctions taking place regularly in Lima, and that steps to appoint some representatives overseas had found a valuable contact in the Argentine collector Senor E. de Fonseca, who was already visiting Peru. 

More details of the cards they supplied to us also appear in "The Cartophilic World" [vol.11, no.123, May - June 1956] as well as a wealth of details about their Society, which was known in Peru as the "Sociedad Cartofilica del Peru". It had five directors, a research committee of four, and an administrative committee also of four. The yearly subscription was just over £2 for local collectors and about £1 for those living further away who presumably could not attend events. This piece was written by Edward Wharton-Tigar, who was elected a member of the Peru Society in mid 1956, and he states that "Few of us over here realised that card collecting in South America had reached such a stage; we only came to know of its existence when Senor Victor Mejia-Franco, the Secretary of the Society, applied for membership of our Society last year." In addition they had sent us "two of their current publications, each 12-page stencilled journals on sheets a little larger than our own". These were called "Boletin Extraordinaire" and I think they sound more like research papers rather than a magazine, though I have not ever seen one - please let us know if you own any....

Even more amazingly there was a Peruvian card dealer, called the Agencia Cartofilica Sudamericana; this was also based in Lima and advertised in the Society publications, where they said their stock ran from the equivalent of a shilling a card to over £3. 

Cards were issued in Peru between 1895 and 1905, though some continued until 1911. The date of 1905 was when the tobacco industry there turned from private to a state concern.

According to Jefferson Burdick, the top issuer in Peru was Roldan y Ca. This was possibly based on the fact that their cards were more frequently seen.e These have top billing in his American Card Catalogue, with code numbers running from N440 "Bullfighting" to N455 "Views and Warships", though the sets were listed in alphabetical order not date order.

Under that comes Arbocco Hermanos y Cia, they carry the codes of N476 "Actresses, Girls, Children" to N492 " Russo Japanese War". Finally he lists Other Peru, which is rather mixed up, mainly because several of them issued identical sets, but given time and a bit of luck all those proven to be issuers may get their own card-ographies here. Note that in Spanish "La" means the, so is ignored in the alphabetical order. 

H. Abramson, Miguel Alzamora y Cia, The American Company,

Arbocco Hermanos y Cia are chiefly known for three series showing the post in various countries, which are dealt with at length in "The Cartophilic World" [vol.11, no.119, September-October 1955, though do note that this magazine omits the year from the front cover]. The information was supplied by various collectors and researchers, including Senor Mejia-Franco. 

Carmelina y Cia, Cruz Roja, La Democrata, Diva, Duany, Sociedad Cigarerra La Fama, Baldomero Febrero, La Forna, Garcileo, GonzalesGutierrez y Ca whose brands included 'El Peru', Hahn, Kwong Lang y Cia, J. M. Mendoza y Cia, M. Moran y Cia, La Mutua, Oliva Hermanos, La Oriental, Pereya y Cia, Del Pino y Cia, R. Platero y Cia, Alfredo M. Portal, Rio y Cia, Rodriguez,

Roldan, or Fabrica de Cigarillos de Roldan y Ca, was based in Lima, at San Jose 66. Don't get too excited as the first four words just mean 'cigarillo makers'. Their main brand was 'El Peru'. The wording on their cards was in Spanish and they were issued between 1895 and 1908. When they were catalogued for our World Tobacco Issues Index in the late 1950s they were split into sections and sub-groups. Series one had a hundred cards and covered actresses, beauties, bullfighting and miscellaneous, whilst series two and three were general interest. Then there was a gap, perhaps to allow for new cards, or to sort the first three still further. The next series listed were eleven to sixteen, and these were flags, coins, stamps and maps. Another gap brings us to series twenty-one to thirty-three which were titled cards, followed by series forty-one to forty-three, stated to have 'irregular borders'. Everything else was lumped in as series 51 to 63 which also includes more actresses and beauties.

Roldan also had an associate company in Valparaiso, Chile, who issued one set, "Spanish Playing Cards - Casinos", this is identical to a set they issued apart from the fact that in the centre the address gives "Valparaiso" not Peru.

Roldan sample fronts
Roldan sample backs

Sabrino, David Sbarbaro, Sociedad Manufactura de Tabacos, Vaccaro y Cia, Viajera, Vizcarro e Hijos,  Zapata 


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P for the Peruvian Partophilic Society
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